CAN CAPITALISM SAVE ITSELF
chairs the Political Science Department at Moravian College
in Bethlehem, PA.
pop quiz involves oxymorons, those often amusing contradictory
two-word expressions like jumbo shrimp, amicable divorce and
Fox News. Okay, which of the following oxymorons have gained
favor within the higher ranks of finance and politics:
the laugh out loud, beyond satire nature of this new buzz phrase
is totally lost on those disseminating it with a straight face.
This was the case when 250 of the world's titans of finance
and business attended a by-invitation-only summit on "Inclusive
Capitalism," held appropriately at an 800 year-old castle
in London, England. The attendees represented $30 trillion in
assets, fully one-third of the world's total investable assets.
by Rothschild banking dynasty heiress, Lady Lynn Foester de
Rothschild, the movers and shakers heard keynotes from International
Monetary Fund Chief Christine Legard, former U.S. President
Bill Clinton, former Harvard President and U.S. Treasury Secretary
Larry Summers and His Royal Highness Prince Charles.
Rothschild voiced the gathering's purpose by stating that "
. . . it is really dangerous for business when business is viewed
as one society's problems. And that is where we are today."
Paul Polman, Univeler's CEO, worried about "the capitalist
threat to capitalism," while conference Alan Mendoza openly
fretted that " . . . we felt such was public disgust with
the system, there was a very real danger that politicians could
seek to remedy the situation by legislating capitalism out of
participants were spooked by a thoroughly disillusioned public
that has lost confidence in capitalism. When combined with people's
rampant distrust of government, seen the coddler of corrupt
bankers, elite squirming is well-founded. Further, many people
believe that because government only responds to lobbyists from
the financial sector, it's now an open question whether capitalism
and democracy are compatible. Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, writing in Britain's
Guardian newspaper, detected "an undercurrent of elite
fear" about how several decades of capitalist indifference
towards most of the world population might play out.
well documented reasons, ordinary working people have lost faith
in capitalism's implicit promise of upward mobility and sharing
in the prosperity and benefits of society's advance. By contrast,
we learn from Oxfam's recent report that the 80 richest people
(85 last year) on the planet -- 0.000001 percent of the global
population -- now have a collective net worth of $1.9 trillion.
Their wealth, which doubled between 2009 and 2014, is equal
to that shared by 3.5 billion people at the bottom of the world's
income scale. For perspective, the average wealth per head among
the 80 individuals is $23.7 billion compared to $540 for the
bottom 3.5 billion people. (Parenthetically, 571 of the world's
1,645 billionaires are citizens of the United States).
will this play out? According to Ahmed, the London Summit "represented
less a meaningful shift of direction than a barely transparent
effort to rehabilitate a parasitic economic system on the brink
of facing a global disaster." For the most part Inclusive
Capitalism is a carefully calibrated PR gambit in the service
of self-preservation. The ruling groups must convey the image
of a chastened system now intent on "including" those
previously left out. We'll be hearing more about financial regulation,
profit-sharing, curbing CEO pay, helping the middle class and
various Neo-New Deal (minus the Deal) bromides.
challenge for panicky plutocrats and their wholly-owned politicians
is to convince the 99.0% that capitalism is the answer, not
the problem. And they must accomplish this cosmetic fine-tuning
without endangering profits and wealth accumulation. To expect
the uber-rich to voluntarily alter the system fundamentals is
to entertain a perilous naiveté.
take is that barring significant public agitation from below,
a system in which government is merely an appendage of our corporate
overloads is not outside the realm of capitalist responses.
Calling that system neofascism will offend some readers so for
now let's label it a hybrid American totalitarianism. Hopefully
that's another oxymoron.
by Gary Olson:
War, Remaking Man